Written by Matt Wilding

To my shame Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros are a band that I only became aware of last week. Compounding my shame even further I only became aware of their existence when I happened to be hear their song ‘Home’ on Fearne Cotton’s Radio One show. That this instantly infectious song has been around for a few years, without me hearing it, felt like an instant travesty, but I’m somewhat of a musical throwback anyway, so don’t let this fact deter you from sampling their quality.

Formed in 2007, the eponymous Edward Sharpe is the alter ego of lead singer Alex Ebert, also of Ima Robot, who began touring as The Magnetic Zeros in 2009. After a chance encounter between Ebert and female vocalist Jade Castrinos, they, along with an accumulation of a merry troop of musicians toured America, strictly by bus, released their first album, Up From Below, in the summer of 2009. Fresh from their performances at the Reading and Leeds Festivals they descend upon Shepherd Bush Empire.

Opening with the Arcade Fire like '40 Day Dream', the chorus rings out "it’s the magical mystery kind," and the immediate thought it that we as an audience may well be in for something not quite ordinary.

Ebert himself is a stick thin Jesus with a scraggy beard and matted hair, recalling Oliver Stone’s interpretation of Jim Morrison, he is an instantly engaging, undeniably eccentric, crowd baiting, sing-along encouraging, shamanic character. He is the heart and soul of the band- instigating, venue wide, palm slapping accompaniment and regularly popping into the audience to hug his adoring crowd, and engaging happily with said crowd with his decidedly hippy ethos.

It has to be said that Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros may not be to all tastes. The aforementioned hippy ideals might turn some people off, but in the true spirit of the night, this sold out crowd fully embrace their sometimes preachy psychedelic folk and thankfully appreciate this all too often missing display of passion and musical quality. Everything from their moon dangling, star spangling, stage set-up, to their ability to spread temporary harmony is a rarity in today’s barren musical landscape. With each passing song there is the undeniable sense that we are building to something special. As good as their songs sound recorded, to be enjoyed in their full splendour they must be seen live. Songs like ‘Jangling’ and ‘Jade’ are full of xylophones, bongos and subtle snares, as refreshingly immediate as they are fundamentally timeless.

The moment the entire venue has seemingly been waiting for, the recognisable whistle of ‘Home’ echoes out to audience wide adulation, and as the female vocal calls out "Alabama, Arkansas," the crowd sing each line back word for word, twirling each other around, dancing in the aisles, swaying, linking arms and holding hands. It is without a doubt the stand out track of the night. A song that reminds you of the best summer of your life that you can just about remember, it is an anthem to true love, friendship and joy that is undeniably infectious. Indeed with all their talk of harmony and love, you can’t help but feel that amongst their hippy clichés, this band may just be on to something.

With one more song to play you wonder just how they intend to top such a euphoric high, but Alex Ebert has one more trick up his dangly sleeve. Wading into the crowd once more he instructs everyone to take a seat, and taking the lead himself, his command is obeyed almost as soon as the request has left his lips. As the band, where possible, perch themselves on the edge of the stage, and ease into the serene ‘Brother’ an immaculately observed Remembrance Day style silence can be heard. Cross legged Ebert sings “And away he gone day and away he gone night,” giving us the perfect end to the perfect show. It is a beautiful moment that is a pleasure to witness and be a part of.

To rapturous applause the band depart with no suggestion or need of an encore. As they do so you can’t help but feel in awe of this musical collective and their unflinching ability to spread love and bring happiness to all. Without a doubt Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros are a band that possess a rare gift. They have the ability to draw you into their own intimate moments, connecting you with their own specific feelings, as if you were part of them yourself. What’s more, they do it so effortlessly that you can’t help but feel that this is a band you want to be a part of, or at the very least a fan of.